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Rav Ovadia: Women who Wear Talit Are Transgressors

"Women are absolved of saying the Shma Israel – they needn't make the blessing, much more so to wear a talit and make a blessing over it."
Rav Ovadia Yosef

Rav Ovadia Yosef
Photo Credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch / FLASH90

The spiritual leader of the Shas movement, Rav Ovadia Yosef, on Saturday night attacked the women of the Reform movement who pray at the Kotel.

In his weekly post-Shabbat class, Rav Yosef said that women who wrap themselves in a talit transgress Jewish law: “There are those Reform, they come to the Western Wall clad in a talit. They’re not performing a mitzvah, they’re transgressing, because of ['A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this' (Deut. 22:5)].”

Rav Yosef explained further that “Women are absolved of saying the Shma Israel – they needn’t make the blessing, much more so to wear a talit and make a blessing over it. A woman must not wear men’s clothing – if she puts them on, she transgresses. Women, even righteous ones, do not put it on.”

A 2001 Knesset law says that “no religious ceremony shall be held in the women’s section near the Western Wall that includes taking out a Torah scroll and reading from it, blowing the shofar, or wearing tallitot or tefillin. Violators shall be imprisoned for seven years.” But the law, as well as the 2004 Supreme Court decision that permitted women to pray as they wish at the Robinson Arch, next to the Kotel, did not refer to the actual wearing of talit as being contrary to Jewish law.

Rav Moshe Feinstein would side with Rav Ovadia’s opinion, based on his answer to the halachic inquiry (Igros Moshe – OC 4:49): “Can a woman wear a Talit? Answer: No. The Shulchan Aruch rules that it is Yuhara – religious arrogance (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 17:2). And if it is a Talit of men, there is a problem of Lo Tilbash – the prohibition of cross-dressing.” (source: ravaviner.com).

The Talmud (in Eruvin 96a) says that Michal, daughter of King Shaul and wife of King David, put on Tefillin. However, the Yerushalmi Talmud (B’rachot 2:3) says that the Sages objected to her practice.

As to the stories about Rashi’s daughters putting on teffilin, Ari Z. Zivotofsky, writing in the OU’s Jewish Action, suggests there is no evidence that Rashi’s daughters wore teffilin. Other sources say they may have, indeed, put on teffilin, but privately.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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36 Responses to “Rav Ovadia: Women who Wear Talit Are Transgressors”

  1. Mildred Bilt says:

    So who are we to criticize how the Saudis treat women? All of the same cloth. The only difference is the language.

  2. Eran Spiro says:

    Women were wearing talits/Shawls long before men. Rav Ovadia is wrong.

  3. Ruth Ben-Or says:

    A tallit does not pertain to a man or a woman, therefore it is not cross-dressing. Do I look like a man to you, Rav Ovadia?

  4. Israel Man says:

    Was R. Ovadia born like that or he bacame like this due to his age?
    והחכמה מאין תמצא?

  5. Chuck W Bird says:

    The Torah speaks to me, not Ovidiah, or any other Rav.

  6. Charlie Hall says:

    Things are not so simple as indicated in the article:

    http://torahmusings.com/2012/12/women-wearing-tallit/

  7. Perhaps I am misreading you Charlie Hall, but to me it seems as though you are ridiculing a Chief Sephardic Rabbi?

    Perhaps I have misunderstood?

  8. Mike Esses says:

    Hi Charlie…The Reform Are Not The Only Ones Who Wear Tallit… Here In Cincinnati…Conservartive Congreragations…The Women Also Go Up To The Sefer …& Also Woman Who Are Rabbis…They Also Wear Tefillin…Both Reform & Conservative…They Allow Even More Then That…Enough Said…

  9. Jacob Alperin-Sheriff says:

    No, ridiculing him would be calling his glasses "lady glasses"

  10. Gavriela Rivka Bat Avraham says:

    "Women are absolved of" doesn't equal "women are not allowed to". The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that as long as you're doing it for the right reasons (i.e. spiritual, not just as a political statement), it's totally fine. I put on a kippah when I'm called up to the bimah at my Conservative shul. It's not a political statement, it's me covering my head out of reverence and respect, especially before the sefer Torah. And being called up for an aliyah isn't necessary for a woman, since we're on a higher spiritual level than men, but there's nothing wrong with it either (especially too if the guys are refusing to go up — and at my shul, they do opt to ask men to do that and to read the haftarah and most other things, women usually are only asked to lead the prayer for our country or prayer for Israel)

  11. Gavriela Rivka Bat Avraham says:

    I'll refrain from commenting on how much of a bunch of gerim-hating buttheads Shas is — which frankly is a WAY worse chillul Hashem than what he's insinuating women wearing tallitot is… I mean, that'd just be off-topic, right? ;)

  12. Many Rabbonim use and misuse halacha to maintain a way of life. They put "we've always done this way" ahead of all other considerations. And like good statisticians, can find all ancient rulings from bygone days to justify why Judaism should be practiced in a vacuum that doesn't upset the proverbial cart. http://tentofabraham.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/the-orthodox-halachic-process-and-a-same-sex-wedding-ceremony-video/

  13. Haim Benari says:

    What about an old man wearing a dress and a tarbush and talking nonsence ? what is he ? a Transvestite ?

  14. Mike Esses says:

    We Have Over Three Thousand Years Of Jewish History & Traditions…Judaism Is Not A Political Democracy…Womens Lib Is Not Part Of Judaism…There Is Nowhere In The Torah & It's 613 Commandments…Where It Instructs Women To Do CertaIn Miitzvots That Were Directed Only To Men…There Are Mitzvots A Woman Must Uphold…Some Of Which Only A Woman Can Comply With…& Men Are Excluded…There Are Mitzvots Both Men & Women Must Comply With…Certain Mitvots Women & Children Are Exempt…The Torah Says You Shall Not Add Or Subtract From These Testimonies…

  15. Larry Lennhoff says:

    @Renee I took Charlie's comment to mean that the Jewish Press had greatly oversimplified a complex issue. I don't think he meant to ridicule Rav Yosef, only to disagree with what was said in the article. There is a difference between disagreement and ridicule. Charlie may well disagree with the idea that a talit is necessarily a male garment, especially if it is a 4 cornered fringed garment in some other colors than white, blue, and black.

  16. Israel Man says:

    Ovadia is competent enough to redicule himself he does not need anyone's help.

  17. Charlie Hall says:

    " but to me it seems as though you are ridiculing a Chief Sephardic Rabbi?"

    Simply pointing out that there are other opinions. In particular, Rav Henkin holds that there are talitot that are NOT male gaments and that it is mutar for a woman to wear them (and of course an Ashkenazic woman would make the brachah).

  18. Charlie Hall says:

    "Certain Mitzvots Women & Children Are Exempt."

    In general, Ashkenazic practice is that women are encouraged to take on mitzvot that are required only for men, and when she does, she recites the bracha.

  19. Michelle Albagli says:

    According to the Rav Ovadia school of thought, women shouldn't be allowed out of the house, let alone go to the Wall.

  20. David Willig says:

    I think he has become senile. He is a walking chilul hashem, someone who brings the Torah, and God, into contempt.

  21. Shanti Rachaman says:

    R. Ovadia is racist and sexist.
    When a piece of cloth is outlawed, things are really dire.

    I suppose Sephardi men shouldn't wear robes, because they look like European dresses.
    And R. Ovadia should take off that turban – it looks like a European women's head covering, AND like an Arab, which is against his own 'halacha'.

    I maintain the right to wear tzitzit, tallis and tefillin.

    Rabbi Hillel: "What you find detestable, do not do to another."

  22. Shanti Rachaman says:

    A LOT of us are ridiculing this Rabbi. Why? Because it is ridiculous!

  23. Shanti Rachaman says:

    100% agree! "A walking chillul HaShem"!!!! Be'emet!

  24. When did the readership of The Jewish Press become so left wing? I'm shocked!

  25. Ruth Ben-Or says:

    Well, I'm amazed, I was about to unsubscribe when all these encouraging comments appeared, although I don't consider myself to be a left-winger either politically or religiously.

  26. Charlie Hall says:

    As Rabbi Broyde points out in his essay, the position is not ridiculous. But as he also points out, one can pasken differently.

  27. Aqibha Y. Weisinger Etc says:

    The view quoted here in the name of R. Moshe Feinstein is an oversimplification of his view, as found in Iggrot Moshe OC 4:49:
    איברא דאיכא רשות לכל אשה לקיים אף המצות שלא חייבתן תורה ויש להם מצוה ושכר על קיום מצות אלו וגם לשיטת התוס’ רשאות גם לברך על המצות וכמנהגנו שמקיימות מצות שופר ולולב וגם מברכות שא”כ גם על ציצית שייך לאשה שתרצה ללבוש בגד שיהיה בצורה אחרת מבגדי אנשים אבל יהיה בד’ כנפות ולהטיל בו ציצית ולקיים מצוה זו. * * * ובתרגום יונתן על קרא דלא יהיה כלי גבר על אשה איתא לא יהי גוליין דציצית ותפילין דהינון תיקוני גבר על איתא לא סבירא להו לתוס’ זה, ופשוט שהתוס’ סברי שאינו מתרגום יונתן.

    He holds that a woman can indeed do a mitzvah she is no commanded, and if she wears a tallis that is very clearly feminine, in theory, it would be allowed. If I stopped here, however, I would be guilty of taking him out of context. He concludes:
    אבל פשוט שהוא רק בחשקה נפשה לקיים מצות אף כשלא נצטוותה, אבל מכיון שאינו לכוונה זו אלא מצד תורעמותה על השי”ת ועל תורתו אין זה מעשה מצוה כלל אלא אדרבה מעשה איסור שהאיסור דכפירה שחושבת דשייך שיהיה איזה חלוף בדיני התורה היא עושית גם במעשה שחמיר.

    Since there is reason to be suspicious about her motives, practically, he's not willing to allow it.

    The view quoted in his name is not his, and to say he would agree with R. Yosef is patently false.

  28. Boris Tuman says:

    The Jewish Press getting facts wrong? Whistle blown!

  29. Boris Tuman says:

    A note to all the people who have commented on this article and taken it seriously. You seem to have mistaken this newspaper with one that beliefs in fact checking. This is most likely not what Rav Ovadiah Yosef said, even if it was I would doubt the context was honest. If you are indeed curious about the issue, check out Aqibha Y. Weisinger Etc's comment. If you are going to get angry and jump down someone or things throat over this article, I would advice the integrity-free paper that printed it, rather then the scholar they chose to misquote.

  30. Boris Tuman says:

    Actually, this article is not a definitive statement of Rav Ovadia's opinion on anything. It is rife with errors.

  31. Myriam Obadia says:

    Has Rav Ovadia forgotten that both Rashi and Maimonides approved of women wearing a tallit to pray?

  32. Jacob Benzaquen says:

    the greatest Sage of all time – Moses Maimonides, the Rambam.
    – explicitly permits women to wear the Talit. One would think that the.
    case was closed – but think again…

  33. Jacob Benzaquen says:

    the greatest Sage of all time – Moses Maimonides, the Rambam.
    – explicitly permits women to wear the Talit. One would think that the.
    case was closed – but think again…

  34. Ron Goldberg says:

    I would have thought so too. Just FYI, I was at the כתל this morning…

  35. Simone Kessler says:

    He's undoubtedly senile – but the seeds were there long ago.

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